The Number of Stars on the EU Flag Means Absolutely Nothing

Image: MPD01605, flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This week, the United Kingdom votes on whether or not it will remain in the European Union. It’s being called the Brexit, which is just awful. But if the UK does leave, what happens to the stars on the EU flag? Nothing— because the number of stars means nothing.

The idea that the stars represent the original members of the EU or some other significant number makes sense, especially to Americans, all of whom have had the “50 stars = 50 states” thing beaten into our heads since childhood. But, according to the official EU website, “The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries.”


The stars are just the number that looks good in a circle, which is a “symbol of unity.” Also the 12 stars somehow also represent the three ideals of “unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe.” Four stars for each one, I guess.

[European Union via the QI Elves]

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Katharine Trendacosta

Katharine is the former managing editor of io9.